Category Archives: Five Stars

Cloud Cover

Cloud Cover: A Novel by [Sotto, Jeffrey]

Cloud Cover by Jeffrey Sotto starts off with a warning so intense that it grabs your attention and you just have to continue reading. Like on the news when they say “these images may be disturbing… viewer discretion is advised.” Indeed, the books’ graphic exploration of eating disorders (from an in-depth exploration of a violent binging and purging episode to hair loss and bleeding gums) is slightly terrifying for anyone who isn’t aware of the very real consequences of anorexia and bulimia. But in addition to being horrifying, it is fascinating like seeing a horrific car accident.

The thing I really loved (and I am not sure if “loved” is the right word, but I definitely couldn’t put it down) about this book was its reality and Sotto’s ability to accurately portray the struggles that people who see themselves as “different” go through hundreds of times a day. Though Tony (the main character) isn’t actually all that different from those around him, being a gay man with severe mental health issues is enough for anyone to feel like an outsider among the masses. Anyone who struggles with any mental illness will immediately empathize with Tony as he runs the exhausting race of attempting to navigate a life fraught with the invisible pain of mental illness. And really, who can’t relate to that on some level? We all fall somewhere on the spectrum of mental health issues, whether it is simply never being happy about how we look in the mirror or feeling dissatisfied with our current status in life and feeling like we are missing something.

The book delves into so much of the human experience in one fiction novel. So much so that I could not believe this was Sotto’s first book. Throughout the book we explore how those with mental health issues interact with the people around them. Tony’s blossoming romantic relationship with Antonio provides insight into how someone with the dark secrets of mental health navigates between the pain of their lives alone with the hope of happiness that new love provides. The constant juxtaposition of how Tony is living with how Tony could live is regularly portrayed through scenes like an episode of what should be a happy couple indulging in a delicious meal ruined by Tony’s ongoing inner monologue about how he plans to purge himself of the calories the very second he is able.

This book will be an excellent read for anyone, though those who can relate more closely to Tony’s issues will probably get even more from the book. In all, I would recommend this book for anyone interested in taking an unfiltered view of the things that some people hide inside them which they may otherwise go their whole lives without otherwise being introduced to. It is a book for those who long to understand humans and their experiences.

Pages: 339 | ASIN: B07ZRTJ255

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The Last King of the Mountain

The Last King of the Mountain: Book One of The True Queen of the Lathai by [Daytona, Camryn]

Ariawyn the elven princess of Lathai, daughter of Queen Aramaris, and last of the line of the Demon Queen. It is said that Lathai must be ruled by someone from the Demon Queen line or else the land will be destroyed. The problem however, Ariawyn does not want to rule. She feels unprepared and unfit to rule a kingdom she has not spent any time in since she was a child. Ariawyn does the only thing she thinks she can, she runs away. Her cousin Luthitan and Rune plan to take over the Lathai throne, not believing in the curse of destruction if Ariawyn does not rule. The magic, deceit, and mystery surrounding all will lead to a bloody end. Can Ariawyn save the kingdom she was born to rule.

Camryn Daytona brings to readers a new take on the elves and dwarves races in her novel The Last King of the Mountain. This is the first book of the series and sets up an epic tale that will capture the interest of fantasy readers new and old. In the first few pages you may feel like this is a retelling of the same old stories we all know of the battle between elves, dwarves, and the mortal races. After the first chapter or two though you see Camryn Daytona’s unique perspective come forth. It is nice to see some common trends among the races that fantasy readers have grown to expect but the overall story line and plot is unique. Ariawyn’s back story is filtered through the main story line and you learn more about her past and how she ended up sheltered in Ellahil rather than Lathai where she is to rule. The novel is long, over 400 pages, but it is not filler or overdone long monologues. All the descriptions of the cities and details about Din Mehidnar are used to enhance the story line and move the character development along. Nothings feels like it is added just fill pages, Daytona is careful about adding the right amount of detail at the right time to keep readers interested and asking questions.

My favorite parts of this novel were watching Ariawyn go from the persona of a shy quite teenager that wants nothing to do with responsibility into a strong woman ready to take back her kingdom. Siveril is a close second to me in character development. He is a cranky sorcerer that is blind with a soft heart for Ariawyn but you don’t understand why untill you get through the novel. Illimon is another character that goes through huge growth through the novel, and I’m interested to see how he develops as the series continues. I didn’t find the politics of the novel overwhelming like some fantasy novels do, nor is the magic so absurd that you can’t realistically engage with the characters. This is a great beginning to a quest for returning Lathai to its proper ruling with dark moments and light moments that will leaving you smiling.

Pages: 399 | ASIN: B07YQF1Q5J

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Grass Miracle from the Earth

Grass Miracle from the Earth (Hearing Others’ Voices) by [Campbell Callender, David]

You may never really give much thought to the ground you walk on. To you, it is simply earth. You may not think about the grass covering it. However, there is a lot to that grass. That grass’ origin, history and even etymology are interesting. You might be wondering, what is there to be intrigued about. Grass plays a significant role in human life. Grass Miracle from the Earth presents a compelling bank of information about grass and everything related to it.

For a book about grass, this one is surprisingly interesting. Most people’s extent of knowledge about grass ends with the green color. Not many know that there are 10,000 grass species on earth. You will even find out that cats use grass for digestive reasons. Therefore this book, if nothing else, is incredibly informative.

After I started reading this book I found myself enjoying it more than expected and even looked forward to the next bit of information. The title evokes this sense of excitement and wonder as well as a tinge of curiosity. The information is engaging accompanied by pictures that support the content and make it wonderfully gripping. The author terms grass as ‘clothes for the earth’ right at the beginning, which is adorable, apt, and is an example of how this book is colored with quirk. Thoughtful information is conveyed in a friendly and informal tone. The language is simple with mild refrain from scientific jargon. The print is well structured with special attention to relevance thus keeping it short.

Ideally, this book is for educational purposes, and is written in a way that suggests that it is aimed at children. However, as an adult, you will find the information interesting enough to hold your interest. However, at times it breaks from the easy flow of information and reads more like a textbook. For example, page 28 discusses seed maturation and vasculature. The reader is directed to research these word, but I hoped this was presented in a simpler way. Understandably, this part is paramount to understanding the essence of grass.

Grass Miracle from the Earth is a brief but informative book that delivers a comprehensive overview of grass and inspires you to learn more about the thing many of us take for granted. This is an unassuming book that is informative and surprisingly absorbing.

Pages: 111 | ASIN: B082KYD8W9

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The Henna Witch

The Henna Witch by [Scherzinger, GJ]

Evil is everywhere. The one place we expect to be free of it is in our dreams, but even those are sometimes not free from the grip of terror and the foreboding sense of impending doom. Men and women are waking in cold sweats and glancing about in a feverish daze trying to convince themselves that it was just that–a dream. The most amazing and terrifying part of it all? These men and women cannot free themselves from these larger-than-life nightmares–and they are having identical experiences. Their sleep is no longer safe and their dreams are certainly not their own.

The Henna Witch, by G.J. Scherzinger, is the enthralling account of Ashia Verena’s mission to defeat a sorceress invading dreams and creating a long path of terror among mortals. Ashia, with a massive task in front of her, sets out to do what no other Guardian can. She isn’t alone on her mission, however, and finds herself facing the task of hosting a young girl on a mission all her own.

Scherzinger writes beautifully with vivid imagery and creates details that lead the reader on a fantastic visual journey. What we, as readers, are not able to conjure, Scherzinger lays out masterfully before us. Where some authors of this genre lean toward flowery language, Scherzinger manages to keep his narrative straightforward and simultaneously descriptive and elegant.

As a reader who is more interested in the relationships between characters, I am pleased with Scherzinger’s approach to writing. The Henna Witch is filled with rich dialogue between characters. The author includes dialects that give his characters an added appeal and make it even more likely readers will become lost in the plot.          

I have to note that there were times throughout the book that Hansel and Gretel came to mind. For some reason, the imagery conjured by Scherzinger brings about the dark feel of the age old fairy tale–definitely not a bad thing at all for this fan of grim tales. 

Yet another plus to The Henna Witch is the length of chapters. Scherzinger keeps his chapters concise and brings each one to a fitting end that urges the reader on to the next. The book is overall a quick read and difficult to put down.

The budding friendship between Ashia and O’la is a precious thing. As their travel ensues, Ashia attempts to be both a mentor and a protector. The two grow closer and Ashia shows O’la how to live off the land and become more in tune with the animals. I enjoyed being able to see Ashia’s thoughts as she observes the fruits of her labor with O’la. Her own desire to not mother her too much is relatable.

The Henna Witch is easily one of the most engaging books in the witchcraft/fantasy genre I have encountered. With a surprisingly relatable cast of characters and an engaging and fascinating plot surrounding the phenomenon of dreams, it will appeal to readers across genres.

Pages:  235 | ASIN: B07MHZQLND

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My Daddy Might Be A Wizard

My Daddy Might Be A Wizard by [Hebert, J. J.]

One of the best things about being a parent is when your kids think you are the best! Magical and wise and you are their favorite person. One of the best things about being a kid is that you believed in magic and were filled with wonder! Those were the days. Author J.J. Herbert pens a whimsical and endearing children’s book My Daddy Might Be A Wizard that is able to capture all of these feelings. Filled with fun and sweetness, the story is told through a child’s perspective and accompanied by charming illustrations that embody the same sentiments.

This a perfect book for parents and children to read together to see how kids perceive their parents through the magical things they see you do. This would be a great way to share with them the things your parents did that you found wonderful and a little magical.

I still believe that my Dad’s hugs were filled with magic because they always made me feel better too! So, pick up a copy of My Daddy Might Be A Wizard and enjoy a light-hearted, breezy and quick story with your youngsters.

Pages: 24 | ASIN: B081TT1WPV

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The Reefs of Time

The Reefs of Time: Part One of the "Out of Time" Sequence (The Chaos Chronicles Book 5) by [Carver, Jeffrey A.]

The Reefs of Time is a classic science fiction story about the adventures taking place in a distant cosmos. The novel starts out with our protagonists, John Bandicut and Co., feeling restless and ready for action after the end of a successful mission. Ik, Bandicut’s friend, manages to get ahold of Julie Stone, Bandicut’s ex-girlfriend. In his quest to bring her back to their world, he messes up and suddenly, the gang finds themselves in a strange new place. The portal has messed up and communication is becoming tougher. When the threat of the Mindaru looms over them, the group is split up to take care of this danger. Interesting new characters and a lot of gripping adventures follow and lead to a tremendously exciting ending.

The Reefs of Time is rich in character development, which I found refreshing for a science fiction novel. The characters were not always what they seem, but they were drawn with enough depth and sensitivity. I could empathize with nearly every single one of them. Although I felt that some elements of John and Julie’s relationship were left unexplored, their dynamic was super fun and interesting.

Shipworld was a glorious and imaginative place. The history and elements of this universe were very well-detailed. I felt immediately absorbed and captivated by this new, futuristic world. The story was also about Shipworld as a whole, not only focused on the lives of protagonists. It often hinted at a deeper picture at play, a sinister and nefarious plot that was puppeteering all of their actions. Even some of the well-intentioned were misguided in their behaviour. At times, I was confused about who I should root for, but I believe that’s a mark of a well-told story. Some of the scientific and futuristic jargon alienated me at times, but it was never too much. After all, who knows what the future really holds. The starstream is almost poetically depicted, lending a surreal nature to the whole deal.

The story is chock-full of action and adventure, pretty much guaranteeing an edge of the seat experience from start to finish. It’s definitely an innovative and thrilling universe and I would love to return to it.

Pages: 474 | ASIN: B07R3D5WZL

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Madness: The Man Who Changed Basketball

Madness: The Man Who Changed Basketball by [DeLucia, Mike]
There is a certain quality about people who make valuable contributions to history. They seem to have an uncanny ability to remain focused on their goals and to overcome their hurdles with stoic determination. Such is the story of one Angelo-Giuseppi ‘Hank’ Luisetti. Some people may not know who this is, including some basketball fanatics. However, the fact remains that Hank revolutionized basketball. Madness is his story of courage, focus, determination and immeasurable passion for the game.

The legacy of Hank Luisetti should never go unrecognized. He lived an inspiring life of hard work and motivating those around him to be better. Mike DeLucia tells his story in a compelling manner. He pulls in the reader right from the introduction with a peek into Hank’s life before basketball; being taught not to question God and a whole delve into his life during basketball. You will get to see the struggles as a ‘different’ kid. Nothing has been held back. This book is marked with candid banter and a knack to inspire the reader.

The book does not discriminate between demographics. It is enjoyable by anyone of any age. It is written in simple language. It weaves the plot of Hank’s life in a way that keeps you interested in how one person can be such a pillar of strength, not only for his self but for others too. You will find all the spirit, joy and heart of the game and the man himself captured between the lines of this book. The story is told in such vivid detail that you can almost see the sweat trickle down Hank’s face. You can feel his heart beat in his chest every time he was on the court.

Mike DeLucia uses true events but has created fictional characters to support the plot. These characters are properly built with enough backdrop and dimensions but it is done so carefully so that they do not overshadow the purpose of the story. They are great characters that will appeal to the reader. These characters will affirm that truly no great man becomes so without a few trusted people to him along the way.

There is a lot to learn from this book. You do not even have to be a fan of basketball. You could know absolutely nothing about the sport but you would still enjoy it. Madness: The Man Who Changed Basketball is a trip into the heart of one of the greatest sportsmen of all time.

Pages: 251 | ASIN: B07N87N384

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Winter Chills: Ghostly Tales for Cold Nights

Winter Chills: Ghostly Tales for Cold Nights by [Lomas, S.J., Carter, D.B., King, Derek R., Reeves-Billing, Natalie]

Winter Chills is a collection of provocative short stories. The greatest thing about this compilation is how every story is distinct and consistently entertaining. Every author wrote wonderfully, creating captivating characters and engrossing stories. In any collection of short stories there is a balance between brevity and detail. Winter Chills is able to balance conciseness with intrigue through the use of excellent writing. Every author is engaging and great when narrating events. Winter Chills is an exceptional book that is perfect for short bouts of reading that will awaken your curiosity about ghosts and how humans relate with them.

‘Departures and Arrivals’ was the first story I read. We follow Holly as she goes to the train station. The beauty of this story was how raw the author was. ‘Departures and Arrivals’ by D. B. Carter is that kind of story that makes you feel every emotion the main character in the story experiences. The text is fresh, and the events are authentic. Holly went to a train station that was anything but a comfortable place. The reader stays with her as she waits for the train to come. Something happens, and spirits from the past surface while terrible events get exposed. The story is chilling and scary. I enjoyed the narration regardless as I found the plot to be freakish and genius. The first story in the book sets the right mood for the other stories.

The third tale, ‘The Holiday Party’, was my favorite of all stories. I enjoyed this particular story the most because of the combination of suspense and a little action in the story. Nick and Marcy are headed to a Christmas party where, like any other typical party, everything was expected to be pleasant. I anticipated the party to go well as friends and acquaintances get together, have fun and make merry. The story flowed well, with compelling conversations and a supposedly happy tale. I was not ready for the twist that would come when Marcy took a break from the party, only to get back and find something else going on. The author had me with the new development. S. J. Lomas ingenuity and imagination had me completely fascinated.

‘The Carolers’. ‘Go With The Wind’, ‘The Christmas Card’ and ‘Defying Convention’ were equally captivating stories. The reader gets drawn into the characters’ lives, and I found myself completely engrossed.

Each author bring their own style and inventiveness to the book. I especially appreciated how diverse the authors are, even when narrating somehow similar stories. Reading this book was an enjoyable experience. I recommend Winter Chills to readers who love short and exciting stories with some macabre themes.

Pages: 156 | ASIN: B07ZTT5KTR

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The Enigma Beyond

The Enigma Beyond (The Enigma Series Book 11) by [Breakfield, Charles, Burkey, Roxanne]

Human beings mastered technology and designed it to make work easier. However, they are now the servants to that technology. It seems that every day humans surrender more and more to technology. The R-Group yet again is on a mission to save humanity from their own creations. With new blood in the consortium, things are bound to be interesting. Will ICABOD be useful in this fight? Which side will win the war? What is to be done about the rowdy congressional oversight team? Can human beings break free of this self-inflicted dictatorship?

Breakfield and Burkey have written eleven installments in this series. It seems like the plot, prose and even character build get better with every installment. This mysterious thriller is colored with intrigue and adventure. The authors have done a great job of narrating R-group’s mission. They have described the Enigma universe in such vivid detail. The reader will walk around the scene as the chaos unfolds and technology takes over human beings’ lives. This book is an explosion of great characters and brilliant plot twists that left me sufficiently entertained.

Authors Burkey and Breakfield are very good at presenting their characters. The characters are well rounded and presented with just enough transparency to reveal their true natures but enough mystery to create an enigma. The characters are relatable and serve to execute the plot quite well. There is so much talent and determination in the characters. Despite all the hurdles and challenges that face the group, they keep going and that resolution is felt in the writing. You can tell from the tone and smooth prose that the authors have a good relationship with their characters.

The Enigma Beyond being the eleventh volume of this series remains riveting and exciting. It’s a continuation from previous installments but it did not leave me feeling like I joined a conversation in the middle. As a reader, you will find this book so well written and the plot so clever that you will want to go back in time to be introduced to the characters in their infancy. It makes for such a wonderful addition to the series despite being self-sufficient on its own.

The authors continue their mission of waking people up to the possibility of an enslaved humanity. They do it with great stories. The reader will be taken on one literary sojourn filled with mystery and intrigue after another. The Enigma Beyond will keep you gripped and teetering on the edge of your seat right from the beginning. You will certainly enjoy the authors’ uncanny ability to maintain novelty in a series that has run for so long.

Pages: 369 | ASIN: B0818875T3

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Tree of Souls

Tree of Souls (The Blood Dagger Book 3) by [Hayes, Misty]

Larna has endured more than most people and has done so at a young age. She has reached some pretty amazing conclusions about herself and her family. Her life, both figuratively and literally, has been transformed. There is nothing she wants more right now than to find the one person responsible for all the hurt in her life–Sarah. While Larna is fighting the battle to find and punish Sarah, her best friend is waging his own war. Corinth’s war is one most will never see. He is conflicted between his two new worlds–angel and vampire.

Tree of Souls is the third book in The Blood Dagger series by author Misty Hayes. This is the most fascinating of the three books focusing on Larna and her sidekick and best friend, Corinth. Different from every other series with a vampire theme, Hayes’s books provide readers with a more intimate look into the mind of the characters.

Hayes gives readers the best of both worlds as she moves from chapter to chapter, alternating first-person points of view. We are able to clearly experience Larna’s thoughts, her anguish, and her love for her friends in each of the chapters bearing her name. In addition, Corinth has his own chapters in which we are given the opportunity to hear his thoughts and watch all the ways he is slowly evolving. While most of Hayes’s chapters pull readers into the minds of the main characters, Larna and Corinth, she does include chapters that hand readers the inner thoughts of secondary characters like Vinson whose motives are integral to the plot.

Larna is complicated, and I love her. I loved the way Hayes chooses to write this character since her debut in The Outcasts, Book 1 in The Blood Dagger series. Larna, in Tree of Souls, is no less green than she was in the first book of the series. Though she is now experienced in the ways of the vampire, she is still a young girl who is learning, loving, and trying to find her way. She is relatable on many levels and is a huge draw for readers across age groups and genres.

There is some gore, although Hayes handles it in as tasteful a fashion as possible. I am not a fan of the bloody, vulgar, or explicit. Hayes writes any scene dealing with the bloodier end of the vampire world with caution and just enough vivid detail to give readers a solid mental image. Her focus remains on her characters, their reactions, their personal battles, and the secrets they hold. Any reader shying away from books of this genre will be pleasantly surprised by the manner in which Hayes deals with this subject matter.

I highly recommend Tree of Souls to anyone who has read the first two books and has been looking forward to this third installment. It was definitely worth the wait!

Pages: 642 | ASIN: B081QLXMB2

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